(OSV News) — The U.S. bishops are inviting Catholics to participate in a Jan. 5 to Jan. 13 novena for the repose of retired Pope Benedict XVI, who died Dec. 31 at the age of 95.
The start of the novena coincides with the date of the late pope’s funeral Mass, which takes place Jan. 5 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Pope Francis is presiding over the liturgy, and thousands are expected to attend.
The nine-day devotion, available in both English and Spanish on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website, focuses on various aspects of the papal role — among them, being successor to the Apostle Peter, unifier and chief shepherd of the church, and authentic teacher of the faith.
Prayers for each day include brief readings taken from Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, as well as conciliar, papal and patristic writings.
Among the passages is an excerpt from “Ut Unum Sint” by Pope Benedict XVI’s predecessor, Pope St. John Paul II, which states “the Bishop of Rome exercises a ministry originating in the manifold mercy of God. … The authority proper to this ministry is completely at the service of God’s merciful plan and it must always be seen in this perspective.”
Popularized particularly during the 17th century, novenas evoke the nine days of prayer observed by the Apostles, Mary and the faithful disciples gathered in Jerusalem between the Ascension of Jesus Christ until the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 1:13-14).
Gina Christian is a National Reporter for OSV News.